Sunday, November 1, 2009

Make-ahead Meals

I prefer to make my own food or, better yet, have husband make it. We rarely eat out. This preference creates a challenge when life gets busy. I once stood in line for 10 minutes at Kentucky Fried Chicken (fast food place) only to walk out the door before ordering. I just couldn't do it. I went home and made a pizza from scratch, crust and all. It barely took longer than my 10 minute line-up, no joke.

Now, I cut myself a little more slack in the summer. My husband is out of town every summer for typically at least a month and I have a much harder time cooking for one.  So I have a few prepared meals I will buy.  I strongly prefer planning well so that it doesn't come to that and I like making meals in advance.

Today, I made a large lasagna and enough cannelloni for 3 dinners. Sasha also got in on the action and made pork tenderloin wrapped in puff pastry with a mushroom-cream sauce wrapped up with it. You'd think we spent hours and hours doing this but each of us took under an hour each. We also made our dinner for tonight in between...but that was just grilled sausages :)

I only took sporadic pictures since I was pretty busy :)

Here is some of the prep work for all the dishes.
I like to do all the prep at once, I find it saves time.

In the back there are two bowls with chopped onion and garlic, one for me and one for Sasha. Working clockwise, the bigger white bowl has cooked spinach for the cannelloni and lasagna, barely visible is a measuring cup with dried morel and porcini mushrooms soaking in boiling waterfor Sasha, the plate has zucchini and mushrooms for the lasagna, and the cutting board has mushrooms for the pork tenderloin.

On the stove, I have tomato sauce and ground beef sirloin. To the beef, I have added some onion, garlic, basil, oregano, crushed chilies, kosher salt and pepper. I also add a spoonful of tomato sauce and a couple tablespoons of tomato paste.

After the beef was cooked, I transferred it into a bowl and used the same pan for the zucchini and mushrooms (also with onion & garlic). Once those were nicely browned, I was ready to assemble the lasagna. I layered like this:
Tomato sauce to cover bottom
A little sauce; zucchini & mushrooms

I was using dried noodles that don't need to be pre-boiled but do better if there is more liquid in the lasagna.  After layering the noodles, I also drizzled some of the liquid that comes off the spinach and also some of the mushroom soaking liquid over them. Better to add flavour at the same time! I often will add a splash or two of red wine but didn't have any I was willing to part with today :)

I then wrap the dish in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil and freeze it.When I'm ready to make it, I defrost it, I remove the foil and plastic wrap, put the foil back on and bake it for about an hour. Keep an eye on the moisture level in there. If it has been 40 minutes and it's really liquid, remove the foil. About 10 minutes before you think you want to pull it out, add grated mozzarella and Parmesan to the top and allow to cheese to brown (you might need to broil for a minute). Remove from oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes. It's hard to wait but it's worth it!!

On to the next...

Assembling the cannelloni. I REALLY must remember to get a piping bag! It would make this so much easier and faster. I did try using a ziploc baggie with a corner cut out but it only lasted for about 10 fills before breaking.

The filling is ricotta cheese, spinach, and red pepper. Again, I put some sauce on the bottom of the dish and place the filled shells on top. I didn't get any mid-way pictures because my hands were covered in filling!

Here is my completed work. The white dish of cannelloni was already put in the fridge for tomorrow night's dinner. I thought I got a picture of the lasagna before wrapping it up but I was wrong.

Finally, here is what my hubby has to show for his efforts (one of them was already wrapped up good when I came in for a picture).



Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

You are welcome to take over my kitchen and whip up some make ahead meals for us anytime! I wish I had more time to devote to creating truly sumptious meals, I am usually too tired.

Anonymous said...

We also do most of our own cooking - I think we eat a lot better as a result. It does take more time and planning, but it's worth it.

RuckusButt said...

Or I could join your staff permanently! Cook meals and paint sheds? Lol. I can groom and blanket too...

Kate, I agree it means we eat a lot better. A little more planning but it really saves time when you need it most.

Now that I'm at one stable or another four days a week I really have to do something to pull my own weight around here!

HorseOfCourse said...

Eating out in Norway is very expensive (except burgers and such) so people here eat at home.
I admire your planning!
It's not much extra work to do a bit more when you already are cooking.
Problem with me is that I so often forget to check the freezer, or plan though...

RuckusButt said...

HoC you made me laugh. I too have a tendency to forget what is in the freezer, especially the deep freezer. We once decided to keep a list of everything that was in there so that we could refer to that. Then we'd forget to cross things off and/or add new ones :)

Chelsi said...

Sounds delish! That white dish with the little blue flowers- I grew up with those same ones. I actually have the pie plate.